Fourteen more trips can hardly tackle crowding in Metro but the authorities cannot do more because of shortage of rakes, railway minister Suresh Prabhu said on Sunday.
"The additional trains (a reference to the introduction of 14 trips from Monday) will not be enough to solve the problem of crowding but this is the best we can do for now with the existing rakes and manpower," Prabhu said.
He was in the city to inaugurate a slew of projects, including the commencement of the construction of a tunnel for the Noapara-airport-Barasat Metro project.
With the number of weekday trips set to increase from 274 to 288 from Monday, more trains will run at five-minute intervals in the morning and evening rush hours.
Officials said the trains leaving the terminal stations between 8.30am and 10.45am and from 5.15pm to 7pm will run at five-minute intervals.
For the rest of the day, the frequency will continue to vary between six and 15 minutes.
Earlier, trains leaving the terminal stations between 9am and 10.30am and between 5pm and 6.30pm would run at five-minute intervals on weekdays.
The authorities have finally increased the number of trips after ruling out the move on several occasions on the ground of inadequate rakes and personnel.
The minister said two more rakes would join the Metro fleet by the end of this year. "Then more trains can be added," he said at the programme, held on the premises of Calcutta airport.
Trinamul MP Saugata Roy, who attended the programme as the local MP and a state representative, said increasing the number of trips would not solve the problems commuters had been facing daily. What's needed, he pointed out, is adding more rakes to the Metro fleet.
"Increasing the number of trains (trips) can be a part-time solution but it won't help in the long run. You need to increase the number of rakes and then plan to increase the number of trips," Roy said.
Metro has 27 rakes - 13 air-conditioned and 14 non-AC. Of the 14 non-AC rakes, six are 32 years old - as old as Metro itself - and are being overhauled at a Belghoria workshop.
During rush hours, almost every rake carries 30 per cent more than its capacity of 2,500 passengers. The increase in the number of trips during the rush hours will only add to the wear and tear.
The definition of rush hours has changed over the years. "A crowed train at 2 in the afternoon or 9.30 at night is not an uncommon sight," a Metro regular said.
"The railway minister understands the need for new rakes. We have asked the Integral Coach Factory at Perambur (in Tamil Nadu) to deliver two rakes at the earliest. We do not want to wait till the arrival of the rakes to increase the number of trips," a Metro official said.
The official added that their aim was to run 300 trips by the end of this year.